Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Getting into the habit of blocking....

At last, at last, the cable shrug is finished! Well, it was finished last saturday night but I found it difficult to photograph this colour. I kept getting purples and bluer tones than the actual true pink colour - thank goodness for photoshop! It is also quite difficult to take a flattering picture of yourself when trying to pose (using a mirror), click the camera and not go 'urgg' at the results. It took many attempts and I still feel reluctant to include a pic of me wearing this! Anyway, enough of that - look at the lovely meandering cable....

I did eventually master the kitchener stitch - although I did pull the thread a bit too tight and had to loosen it all afterwards. A lesson learned. It worked well on the stocking stitch but not the rib. Maybe that is the nature of the stitch? To pull alternates into the gap so they aren't truely aligned in parallel but more in a zigzag. Of course this wouldn't matter much in a smooth stitch but it makes all my rib uneven - knit meets purl. A very unsatisfactory look - messy and an obvious join on the back. I did like how the stocking stitch did disappear as a join (when I realised I had tightened it waaay too much - of course!)

Can you see the lower rib and how it doesn't seem to meet? I think I will try it out on a sample to see if it does work or if it was just me first time around. But at least there is no obvious ridge or seam right down the back so I suppose I can live with it.

Anyway, after all that, I feel this is a little small on me - hence the unsatisfactory pics of me wearing it. I look so BIG in all of them, like the top is a few sizes too small. I have considered altering the pattern so I could get more wear out of this but I don't know if I like it enough to want to knit it again. There are so many other patterns out there I still have to try!

It did also occur to me that I maybe should have blocked it before sewing together. I know it is good practice but I haven't got into the habit as yet. I did read up about it yesterday and you can add length and volume to your garment when it is wet. So maybe I should take more time, block, and possibly the garment might fit as it was meant to?!!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Pea pods

At last we are getting some produce from the garden - lettuce, radishes, more lettuce, red leaf lettuce, cos lettuce, mixed lettuce... The tomatoes are growing, the courgette and beans are flowering but now we have - PEAS!

Six green peapods sitting in a row... artistically, of course.

I had forgotten just how yummy raw peas are - not too many and give yourself belly-ache though! To be honest once you've shelled six pea pods, there aren't that many to go around!

But there are more on the way. I'll just have to get more room to grow lots more if I want to actually get enough for a meal!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Coloured Abstract

Felt is a lovely medium to draw with. It gives you instant blocks of colour, but can blend, act as a see-through filter to diffuse colour intensity and trap threads, lace, and fabrics. I also love the fact that you have to be a bit more spontaneous when drawing with fleece. Although there is definite care taken with balance of composition, detail and colour palette, I find it more expansive a medium to draw with.

This piece starts looking at abstraction, colour and drawing landscapes with felt and the intention is to take these initial studies further with stitch and collage embellishment. But I think I like this one as it is. The majority of the fleece is hand dyed shetland and wensleydale (curly bits) with some pre-dyed merino. I also have some silk tops I'd like to dye and use as a cobweb filter in places too.

The amazing thing about felt is the detail that the fibres give you close up - they could even be mini compositions in their own right. I also like the fact that felt isn't precious. If it doesn't flow as well as you intended then you can always take a viewfinder and find a new composition within, then chop it up!! I haven't done that here - this one is a birthday present - but the one before this has become a smaller composition, a birthday card and three small cards. Hey, it's flexible!

Another quandry I have with felt though is how to present it. Felt by nature tends to produce uneven edges and I like this element but I also love wall to wall colour with no white to distract the intensity/depth of colour. So, edges or no edges? (compare pic 1 and pic 5)
Also should it be behind glass or suspended as a wall hanging? Textiles as wall decorations will trap dust and are then difficult to clean so maybe glass should be used but then it acts as a barrier to the textile itself and it has such a tactile quality - touchy feely. Thoughts anyone?

So more of these to follow. I would like to gather some more source on natural forms and abstract elements in nature or landscapes - microscopic aspects would work here too. More development in the sketchbook and more playing with felt, I think!

Happy Birthday John! I hope you like your felted abstract landscape:-)

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Lavender's blue dilly dilly

Lavender’s blue dilly, dilly, Lavender’s green;

When I am king, dilly, dilly, You shall be Queen.

Who told you so, dilly, dilly, who told you so?

'Twas my own heart, dilly, dilly, that told me so

Call up your men dilly, dilly, Set them to work,

Some with a rake, dilly, dilly, some with a fork.

Some to make hay, dilly, dilly, Some to thresh corn,

Whilst you and I, dilly, dilly, Keep ourselves warm.

The garden is in full bloom!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Pineapple Crush

I do like moodboards:-) All that visual cheeriness in front of you inspiring you to actually get around to starting some work! The actual doing, the placement of images, objects, samples, yarn, fabric - it all lends to the overall balance of the piece. I suppose I enjoy it being a composition in its own right.

All this hard work wasn't done today alas! But it does remind me that I need inspiration in front of me before I start a new major direction or project. I used to feel so limited by just flat images and postcards - or bad printouts! - so I decided to change the rules. Hence my 3D moodboard. Anything that fits the theme can be included; shoes, bags, clothes, images, samples, balls of yarn, cards, cakes, laundry bags! Whatever! Then I photograph it all and stick it on the wall and in the front of my sketchbook to peruse and inspire me to make a start.

This theme is 50's retro, pastel, soft, feminine french feel with some texture, pattern and subtle colour palettes, transluscent layering, lace detail, watercolour or photographic elements. A good start for visual language in a mixed media collage. Lacks text or blocks of narrative but that could be added if the story required it.

It was originally intended to inspire a series of retro knitted accessories - which I still intend to get around to in my spare time! I like the idea of wearing a top or bag called Pina colada or pineapple crush that matches my 50's outfit. One does ones best to co-ordinate dahling!

Retro clothes, retro yarns, retro accessories....hmmm, might be on a roll here!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Starry, starry night

I've been thinking about how I intend to take my creative textiles and my thoughts so far are leaning a lot towards drawing with materials - stitch, felt, trapped shapes. I also want to build on my previous work which included collage, free embroidery and print. In fact, the more I think about it, the more mixed media my ideas are becoming. These samples were from an exploratory piece I used as a cover for my reflective journal.

Basically this is a fabric sandwich.
The background is painted with blended inks, then there is the middle layer of large drawn stars in fleece - unfelted - and decorative threads and sequins. This is all covered with a final layer of netting.

You can see the netting clearly here and it also shows the random free embroidery pattern that traps all three layers together with the mixed media inside. I used invisible thread and a subtle colour of netting to see the pattern at its clearest but both these aspects could be highlighted for different effects. The words were drawn with the machine - I like the imperfections of the stitch rather than typed fonts for this piece.

Colour, texture, decorative detail, hidden meanings, drawing with materials, painterly textiles. Hmm, where is this going?

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Ready to roll!

Another find in a charity shop - a very retro knitting needle roll. Looks a bit 70's to me! I've been thinking of sorting out my knitting needles into sets for easier finding and haven't quite got round to making my own roll. Not that it's difficult, not that I don't have enough really nice fabric to choose from to make my own yummy roll but I still haven't 'got round to it'!

Well, now I can use this one as a quick template and get going. If you noticed earlier, I said 'sets'. Ah, yes. When I hunted out all my needles to fill the roll, I realised I could fill about 3!! I could actually decide whether to match all the grey Pony brands together or all the cute cream circles with the red centres together. That is how many I have. And that's not counting all the old sizes instead of metric. So, it's grey sophisticated looking needles in the retro roll (so far), cookie red/cream circles awaiting a pink polka dot roll and the rest are still awaiting a home.

The roll is a bit heavy to lift and defeats the purpose of being portable but then knitting always tends to be stored in huge bags that carry almost everything you could need in knitting as well as the kitchen sink! Once I get the other rolls done I suppose I won't need 2 sets in each space...... Or maybe I should be planning roll 4??

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Experimental Dyeing

A few weeks ago I started to experiment with dyeing yarn. I've done a lot of cold procion dyeing before but it's been ages since I've considered hot dyeing with acid dyes for wool - not since college and that's going back a bit now!!

So when I did the printing workshop last summer, and had to use acid and direct dyes, it reminded me how much I liked dyeing and layering colour. I began to look at how I could use this in my work - dyeing, yarn, fabric, embroidery threads, fleece.... Imagine spinning all those yummy colours! Too many plans, not enough time!

As I've been into hand knit recently, I thought more about dyeing yarn for me to knit with! I started with techniques I'm more familiar with so I dip dyed and space dyed several hanks of 100% merino DK with one hank of 2 ply silk (pink one above). The silk just loves the acid dyes but I was a bit disappointed with the lack of colour intensity in the wool - especially when the acid dye is meant to work especially well with it. I'm sure I used the right amount of dye and white vinegar but some have that white cast you get with cold dyes. I even remembered to prewash to get rid of any grease or remaining lanolin that would act as a barrier.... Am I just being picky? I've seen lots of hand painted skeins online that are much more intense in colour and that is what I am aiming for:-(

The next task is to hand paint rather than dip or space dye - microwave at the ready! Maybe I will get better colour retention? You can see in this grey/purple skein that I kind of overdyed it to saturation point, but I do like the subtle hues too. In fact I think this would look lovely as a Gretel Beret(another Ysolda pattern that I haven't managed to start yet!)

All I need to do now is make sure I do enough of one colour for the pattern! Well, back to the drawing board - I'll let you know how the hand painted hanks turn out.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Cable Shrug Revisited

Well, here is where I left the cable shrug about a month ago, pondering over whether I should even bother continuing when the pattern required joining both sleeves right down the middle - which has all the potential of a natural disaster waiting to happen.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it!

I found a video yesterday that visually explains 'Kitchener stitch' very very easily and suddenly this problem seems so trivial. I mean if they had just said it was just grafting I would have at least understood the concept and hurried away to look up 'how-to-graft'. But the posh title kind of threw me:)

Anyways, if you are looking for a video to explain 'kitchener Stitch' or common old grafting then do try this video by Knitwitch.

I still have a way to go before I even need to use this stitch but at least I know how to finish this one now!! Pics to follow once it's grown a bit more. Best get going then, I've a shrug to finish and apparently the few days of really nice sunshine we've been having is finishing this thursday so I'd better get a move on before the blustery weather arrives!

BTW - two posts in two days?! Look out tomorrow and I might just break all records and make it three in a row!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

100% saturated colour

I was rummaging at a car boot sale last week and saw this peeking out from underneath a pile of clothes - isn't it lovely? No-one else seemed to have spied it so I decided it was obviously meant for me!!

Doesn't it remind you of smarties? Although it's not very large, it's got that touchy feely quality - all those bobbles!

I'm going through a bright phase right now - bright clothes, bright colours in my work - so this fits in perfectly. I don't quite know why though, I do tend to shift between bold 100% saturated colours and subtle colour palettes. I have noticed there are a lot more clothes around in the shops with intense colour ranges - probably influenced by the 80's! In fact, I seem to remember owning a lot of brightly coloured clothes then too; jade, aqua, orange, yellow, pink - usually worn all at once! And don't forget the matching socks! That is one thing that is harder to find now. I can find stripes and pastels but not a full range of in your face brightly coloured socks.

Maybe I should dye my own sock yarn and get knitting!!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Hidden Stories

Still thinking about colouring fabrics and building up backgrounds, I thought I would show you a book that covers just this subject - 'The Painted Quilt' by Laura and Linda Kemshall.

Although their main outcomes are quilts, there is a full range of ideas and techniques for the preparation of fabrics using printing, layers, drawing with stitch, painting with dyes, tie dyeing, overdyeing and printing combinations.... You get the picture!

The layers of techniques are very rich in colour, texture and visual contrast and the book explains the development of ideas from source, the techniques and processes used towards both conventional and unconventional interpretations of the quilt.

It highlights ways to use all elements of visual language in a balanced and considered way to enable a strong overall outcome making good use of texture and colour as well as detailed imagery.

I do like the layering of techniques and the way the use of photographic imagery doesn't dominate the compostition and manages to be seen but hidden at the same time. Some of Laura's work has a 3D quality using flaps - telling another aspect of a story that is partially hidden? It is an intriguing concept to play with.

If you feel you must own this book then you can find it here. If you are interested in Laura and Linda Kemshall's work you can visit their website here. They also run creative courses in all these techniques if you live near enough - and can afford it! It would be lovely to be able to indulge!!
Update - apparently the courses are all now online. You can view the details on their website.

Anyway, more ideas to add to the creative melting pot. Time to go away and think and then start to experiment!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Experimental Flowers

Being in the process of producing a report on a printing and dyeing workshop I attended last summer, I realised I hadn't shared any photos at all. I was limited to 4 photos for the report so I cheated a little and used the flickr toy link to make a mosaic. So 20 pics for the price of one! ( it also looks quite smart and peps up the presentation!) But since I'm not quite so limited here, I can give you some larger images to see.

Bleach paste printed through photographic stencil

It was a really interesting workshop that concentrated on photostencils for devore and discharge printing (bleaching out colour) - something I hadn't done a lot of. My main interest was to see if I could introduce this to my students without overwhelming them!

Seed heads - discharge printing (bleach)

The techniques were fun and the devore visually works best with the japanese rose pattern. The shine and two tone colour of the velvet is just lovely.

Each design had to be worked out as a repeat pattern for the design to follow across the fabric and the double dyeing of the fabrics was fun and very enjoyable - instant colour! I had forgotten just how much I love playing with colour and dyeing makes it so instantaneous. You can't see it well in the photos but some are dip dyed and overdyed to get just the right colours. Can you tell I had fun?

Since I was meant to be updating skills for my students to use as a resource, I kept a mini sketchbook of the design and techniques processes as I went. I must admit I was so busy trying to get the huge amount of printing done that I did neglect it a bit and had to add things later...

Working out repeat pattern for lace flower photostencil

As a teaching resource it was an excellent course and now looking back at it, it has sparked lots of new ideas for my own personal development in creative textiles. Hopefully I will have the time to experiment on mixing print and mixed media collage and see what happens.

I'll keep you posted!


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